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  • Writer's pictureBen

Rediscovering the Magic: My Journey: Digital or Film Photography

This is a hashtag that has been in my posts increasingly over the last six months over on my instagram page. What started as my hobby and a nostalgic trip back to where it all started ended up becoming the way I now prefer to do things, wherever I can possibly get away with it! So digital or film photography? Both please!

people walk around in front of a busy metro in Sofia, Bulgaria
Sofia's Metro

I had no plans whatsoever to use film for actual paid work but it turns out, it wasn't just me who loved the film look. There are many reasons why I would shoot digital for paid work, the instant feedback, the speed and the flexibility. There are a number of reasons why I would urge a client towards film too. The undeniably beautiful look, the authenticity. Sometimes it's great to shoot on both!

My film journey film is lengthy, so I don't want to go on too long here but I'm so pleased that as part of a film emulation software review we were asked to do, I decided to buy an old film camera to see what all of the fuss was about. If you have half an hour, get a cuppa and have a watch. If you are a bit short of time, I will try to summarise in the paragraphs below

An RV visible in a driveway of a house on a street
Driveway RV

These days, with digital cameras and editing software (not to mention AI), we can take extremely clear and perfect photos and mess around with them in ways we would not have believed 20 years ago. So it might seem strange that old-fashioned film photography is becoming popular again. But that's exactly why people are getting into it - because film photos aren't perfect. The slightly faded colours, graininess, and vintage look of film photos make them feel more emotional and nostalgic. From big advertising campaigns to personal photography as a hobby, people are loving the imperfect, retro aesthetic you get with film.

An abandoned gas station in Bulgarian a main road
Out of Gas

While digital is still the best choice for taking photos that need to look very realistic and accurate, like product shots, film is great for capturing feelings and moments in a more artistic way. We've become so focused on taking advantage of new camera technology to make photos look as sharp and perfect as possible that we kind of lost the original artistic side of photography. Film photography forces you to slow down and embrace the imperfections and emotions in a scene, rather than just trying to recreate it perfectly - it connects us back to the genuine, emotional roots of photography.

A crowd of people walk through the London underground away from the camera
Gleaming the Cube

When I first started shooting film (the second time around!), I loved the whole experience - the anticipation of not knowing how the photos would turn out, the satisfying sound of the shutter, and having to really carefully frame each shot since every frame cost money. I eagerly shot my first roll in about 20 minutes, but then had to wait to get it developed to see if any pictures even came out. Those first rolls were pretty terrible between my inexperience, bad lab scans, and uncooperative weather. But I was hooked on improving my skills and the surprise of seeing the results.

A blonde girl in sunglasses bends over backwards whilst eating a chip
Chips Ahoy

With each subsequent roll, I got a few more decent shots as I learned. Seeing those high-resolution film scans from (thanks Analogue Wonderland!) with all the beautiful detail and natural grain was amazing. Now I can't imagine not shooting film. While it's a challenging process compared to digital's instant feedback, that's exactly what makes it so rewarding. Embracing the hands-on learning experience film requires - carefully metering light, nailing focus, and staying present in the moment behind the camera's limitations. The satisfaction comes from mastering the art through discipline. Something I hadn't felt for quite some time in 25 years of only shooting digital

The front of a ski school shop with skiers outside it with the Austrian alps in the background

After around 100 rolls of film and talking about film photography extensively, I decided that if I had to describe shooting film and looking at film photographs in one word, it would be 'authentic' It then seemed an obvious choice to start shooting all of our photography for our magazine Authentic Athletic on film. Those white bordered film photographs on matte recycled magazine paper have exactly the feel we want for them

A magazine with a girl playing netball on a red leather sofa
Authentic Athletic

Whatever new methods come our way we will welcome, but film and the old ways will always be a large part of what we do Much Love Ben&Jack

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